1.9.19: Cute Date Alert and Reminder to Be Present

Happy New Year once again!  I like to use this greeting until February.

Yesterday was cute date 1.9.19.

I am struggling with finding the time to do everything I need to do and want to do.  My brain is never in rest mode as it is always thinking in list form, for the things I need or want to do for the three kids, for the family or home as a whole, or for myself.

Even during a morning walk with my baby girl, exploring the still-new ‘hood, my mind was elsewhere, wondering what my next steps are and how I can accomplish them this year.  I have to catch myself and come back in to the sunny moment, as we pick up branched berries and rocks to study.

The era of the smartphone is not good for my inability to shut my mind off.  I even borrowed “How to Break Up with Your Phone” from the library but only skimmed it as I got distracted, probably by my phone, or the kids, or other more pressing or enjoyable matters, and had to return it on its due date as another patron had requested it.

Olive was my cute date to her new Mommy and Me class this year, on cute date 1.9.19, and as I set her down, I happened to check my phone “real quick” and then became preoccupied thinking about more To Do’s that the phone check had sparked.

On New Year’s Eve 2018, I jotted down some notes using the Rule of Life, first introduced to us through our old church in NYC.  Here are the steps:

Step 1
Write down everything you currently do (or hope to do) that nurtures your spirit and fills you with delight  (e.g. people, places, activities).   Normally, when we think of spiritual activities, we limit ourselves to things such as prayer, going to church, worship, and Bible reading. Don’t censor yourself.  Your list may include gardening, walking the dog, being in nature, talking with close friends, cooking, painting, jumping out of airplanes, or any number of other possibilities. List them all!
Step 2
Write down the activities you need to avoid, limit or eliminate that pull you away from remaining anchored in Christ.  This refers to avoiding certain things that impact your spirit negatively – such as violent movies, excessive social media involvement, being harried, and going beyond your limits. The list that you create, whether you know it or not, is your unconscious way of life.
Step 3
What are the challenging “have to’s” in this season of your life that are impact your rhythms? (e.g. caring for aging parents, a special needs child, a demanding season at work, parenting small children, an illness, etc.)

 

I was able to use this as a tool to recognize that in Step 1, rest, being out in nature, doing life with others, writing, reading, prayer and more were crucial for me to be healthy.

Step 2:  excessive social media scrolling and phone-checking and stacking up my days so that there were no margins to breathe were harmful to me and anxiety-inducing.  Kevin, a peacekeeper to a fault, shared that for him, arguing with me was in his Step 2 as something he needs to avoid.  That actually helped me understand his mindset more as I am more confrontational by nature.

And Step 3 is tricky as we are in a season of life where a toddler, as ladylike as she is, zaps our energy and our two growing boys also need us in different ways.  So in one sense, this is a reminder for us to slow it down and not pack it in, but Kevin and I both like to do a lot: participate in different activities and spend time with quality people so that we are not an island unto our family unit.  The key is always balance:  much needed rest, fun, time together as a couple, time alone on our own, but wait, how about one-on-one with each kid, de-cluttering, organizing, grocery-shopping, and more?

On the one hand, I’m excited because the reason I feel overwhelmed is not only because there is so much I need to do, but WANT to do.

Lord, help me to slow my thoughts down and be present; to breathe and know that You are God and I am not.  Even if I drop the ball on some time-sensitive registration or research, it is okay.  I need not constantly check my phone or have my phone rule my life.

Thank You for a new year to fill up.  And thank You that I need not be master of the universe though I try to control my little household.

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Happy 2019: Hashtag Blessed AND…

Happy New Year!  May your 1-9, be beyond fine.

On the first day of 2019, I found out that some friends are expecting their third child.  I was so surprised though I already knew that when people say they are SO done, that means nothing because life.

I became immediately excited for them and also nostalgic for that expectant stage I always idealize because hey, HUMAN LIFE INSIDE ME!

I wanted to tell my friends just how joyful being a mom to three is.  Joyful AND crazy.  Blissful AND overwhelming.  “AND’s” are always allowed.

The kids are still on Winter Break, which is a new phenomenon for these newbie Californians as we are used to going back to school promptly on January 2nd, immediately after the countdown and the dduk-mandoo-gook.

After fixing the baby some eggs and the boys some Spam kimbap for breakfast, we rushed to a local Japanese Tea Garden before baby’s nap hit.  This one doesn’t do car naps so we rush home for crib naps, a totally new experience.

The garden is a gem I was delighted to bring my family to, as it was one of my favorites decades ago when I lived in L.A.

“Don’t throw the pine cones into the pond.

Make sure they only land on the grass.

Don’t creep close to the water on that stone perimeter.  Back up.  More.  Watch out for your sister.

I said, no pine cones in the pond.

Olive, let’s walk around the lady trying to get her sunbath on.”

Clearly, a different experience from visiting alone as a single 20-something.

My thoughts are all over the place as I know the baby will wake up soon and the boys might break out into a fight even though they are currently playing quietly after consuming the ramen I made them for lunch.

When people repeat how hard marriage and parenting can be, I always want to hear specifics.  When they only repeat that it is hard, my ever-curious mind wonders what *they* find hard about either, and if it is similar to what I find hard about it.

I can’t tune out sounds, for one, so I absorb every noise, kid and otherwise.  Like the leafblower on turbo right outside my window as I type this.  So when I hear the boys just BEGIN to fight, I feel triggered as I know what awaits.

As their bodies grow bigger, their fights are more intense and frequent.  And guy-ish.  I was able to stomach their toddler fights because of the adorable and innocent factor.  They are louder and meaner now, pushing each others’ buttons on purpose.

And a 20+ lb. lightweight toddler sister might get caught in the crossfires.

As the “wise” “adult,” I need to not react and spew out the reaction I am tempted to spew:  “Shut up, I can’t handle this fighting!”  And when my bucket is beyond empty, I so want to say, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

I have to pause, take a deep breath, and find out what made them escalate.  And most times, I just don’t want to.  I, too, want to go sunbathe at a public park and bounce when the kids make kid noises.

For me, the psychological toll that parenting takes is what comes to mind these days, when I think about parenting being hard.  I can’t hear myself think and it will only get louder once Olive is fully verbal.

I want to behave just like them at times but I must don this adult costume and not be reactive.  And when I do fail and say wrong things, I must apologize again, forgive myself and ask friends to remind me that there is no condemnation or else the shame spiral will take me for a ride.

For Year 1-9 to be Beyond Fine, both Kevin and I have to make sure our mental health gets put on The List.  This means more alone time for each of us, not alone time to pay bills, increase our household income while baby naps, email the teachers, schedule play dates, meet more family needs but alone time to NOT take care of tasks, alone time to do what delights us, even for half an hour, which is just what I got to do now, while baby continues to nap and boys dribble a ball, harmoniously, for now.

Sure, I want this to be better writing but nope, publishing as is or else I’d never blog.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Quieter of My Soul

I failed again.  During a visit from my mom, I drove her away the week before Thanksgiving.  Only God can help us understand where the other is coming from despite the immense cultural, language, love language, and generational barriers.

I have to study the fight-or-flight response further because I tend to fight, as in attempt to tackle the recurring issue while my mom leaves the room and her eyes check out, which only triggers my escalation as I chase her, begging to be heard.

I don’t want to get into more of this as it is too raw and unresolved.  And not entirely my story to tell.  I just know that we need help and this unhealthy cycle has to stop.

How do I respect and navigate around her need to flee, which is just as dire as my need to be heard.  She just wants to retreat into a safe space whether it is to wash a dish or wash Olive’s socks DURING the communication I begged for, which only triggers me, as keeping occupied with physical tasks has always been her coping mechanism while I need to talk about it.  THIS IS SO PAINFUL and beyond hard.

I explained to my kids at pick-up that Halmoni and I had a painful conflict and that in light of that, can they please gift me with extra grace, as in please be on task with picking up after yourselves, not fighting, and staying focused during homework.

Needless to say, I still had to repeat myself, break up fights, apologize for lashing out due to my own emotional tank being depleted, rush, clean up Olive’s messes, pray for help, then take them to their church activity on time.

Looking back on yesterday, I realized again that for me, the toughest part of being a parent is not just the physical demands like feeding (so much feeding), driving, clothing, decluttering, and organizing but the emotional demands, like disciplining without lashing out and parenting while I’ve taken an emotional hit.

I thought about my girlfriend who has yet to process her baby’s death as she is busy meeting the demands of her first child.  Or even now, as first responders near the Woolsey Fire in Thousand Oaks, have not been able to grieve because immediately following the mass shooting of last week, came the massive fires.

Underlying the frenzy of yesterday was also gratitude for my kids needing me so I could not afford to “dwell” on my feelings of guilt and sadness, *BUT* it truly is a balancing act as I do have to find some still small space to find out how I can communicate wiser so that my mom does not resort to her coping mechanism of taking flight.

So, as Thanksgiving approaches and many of us will gather with our families, all of us imperfect and broken, I pray for quieting of our souls amidst the many voices, inner chatter, unmet expectations, and unresolved childhood wounds:

“The LORD your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV) – emphasis mine

If you read this, please pray for me and my mom.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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and the boy…

We approached our swings as we do every weekday morning after dropping off Kevin at his train stop.  Our micro morning community.

M, the grandmotherly case worker of D, the bespectacled young man with cognitive disabilities, who always swings with us.  I hadn’t seen them last week so I told M, “I was worried.  We have NEVER not seen you swinging next to us.  It’s pretty amazing how people make an impact in your day.  We see each other almost every day so I had to find out if everyone was okay.  So great to see you guys again.”

M:  “And you?  You’re missing one today.”

“Yes, he’s grown up.” (Throat closing up a bit.  Suddenly parched.)

M:  “They do that, you know.”

“Yup.  He suddenly doesn’t want to stay back here with the family in the mornings.  He now goes on campus early to meet his friends.”

I felt my heart swell up and my eyes water.

Of course I was happy to see Micah growing up.  As he should.  What a blessing we never take for granted, especially after wondering what his transition from NYC to LA might be like.  But just like so many parenting moments, a rush of many emotions at once.

He now jumps out of our minivan each morning to go cross the street by himself, with one of the crossing guards on duty.  He yells, “Thank you!” after they’ve escorted him across.

Ellis, Olive, and I watch from the other side of the street, on top of a grassy mound, wet with morning dew, before these younger two go claim their swings.

I can barely make out Micah laughing and running around with classmates.  I can’t help but think of “The Giving Tree,” the book that gutted me as a child and then annoyed me as a mom because the darn boy should have reciprocated with some seeds or some water,  ANY little token of appreciation.

And the boy had grown up.  The mom was happy.  (But the mom had no shame so she watched him for a beat longer from her Honda Odyssey like paparazzo before driving off and before she could embarrass him.)

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Pulse of a Place

Everyone is so different.  This simple fact never ceases to intrigue me.

A friend from college had been dreaming about moving to NYC and after many years and a detour, her dream was realized this month.  It was exciting to watch this unfold even though it was only through Facebook.

It did make me reflect.  The city she had been yearning for all these years was the very city I yearned to leave.

Don’t get me wrong.  NYC will *always* have a piece of my heart.  It is the setting for our story:  from boyfriend-girlfriend to engaged to married to two baby boys to one more bonus baby.  Also the setting for our late night fights and bad cycles and tears and no family to help during those tender baby and toddler years.

That city wasn’t just the backdrop.  It was a dominant character in the story because hey, it’s NYC.

Now that I’ve boomeranged back to my home state after 13 years in NYC, I am as happy as a turtle sunbathing on a rock.  With shades on.

Those 13 years made me see my hometown in a totally different light, almost like getting back with an ex.  “Oh, you mean other places range from cold to freezing cold almost six months of the year?!  Not lined with palm trees?!  People rushing all the time and zoning out on the subway?”

I also realized that the difference between what my friend and I yearned for could be summed up in one phrase:  the pulse of a place.

I needed to graduate from the very energy that is NYC – the palpable energy that makes everyone say there is NO other place like it.  The energy that was wearing me out daily.

NYC has its incomparable beauty.  I can’t do it justice by only listing a few examples so I won’t.

But at my age and life stage, I needed a different pulse.  No more beep beep-honk honk-sirens-catching trains-trekking in the dirty snow-trash piled up high on the sidewalks.

My new pulse is slower and quieter.  And oh how I delight in it.  I look forward to each day in a new way.

Mountain views so beautiful they look downright fake.

Palm trees…and more palm trees on the next block.

Neighbor’s grapefruit tree spilling treasures onto the sidewalk when the gusty Santa Ana (warm) winds hit the other night.

Sun beaming down on me the week before Halloween.

Still wearing shorts in October.

People walking their dogs slowly.  Smiling.

No one honking at me (first car to honk at me in 2.5 months had MA plates!).

Wide open spaces that I dreamt about, prayed for.

Strangers saying “hello” and me being the New Yorker wondering if they talkin’ to me.

Gardens.  Succulents.  (And yes, NYC has beauties like these too – my faves being Wave Hill and Storm King-but those spots were oases away from the frenetic pulse I can now love on a visit, not day-to-day).

Puig calling in to Power 106, promising to take the Dodgers to the World Series. Game 1 starts tomorrow – Dodgers vs. Red Sox.

George Michael’s “Faith” playing on my car radio and Ellen K. punctuating with, “We gotta have faith…in our Dodgers,” in a completely serious tone.

No place is perfect.  But I’mma take the 210 to the 10 to the 118 to the 134 to the 101 to the 405 to the 2 to the happy face on my heart.  No place like home.

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Adventure and Possibility

I’m not sure if it’s because we’re still so new to SoCal but I wake up excited.

Everyday is a new adventure and possibility:  Who might I meet?  Which new class or group will Olive and I check out?  What new part of LA will we learn about?  What will become our new normal?

I am not used to being passive in any form.  I am always following up and usually initiating socially, too.  But sometimes, it’s exhausting and frankly, it can flare up my doubts and insecurities:  “If I don’t initiate, would I continue to have most of my friends?”

But I’ve been learning to let go bit by bit.  I feel like He is showing me that if I dare sit back and see what could unfold without me masterminding it all, He will still open up opportunities.

Like today, Olive and I visited a school for her and me.  I found it not through any aggressive researching on my own but “passively” when my friend tagged me on a Facebook post and it was just what we needed for this new season.

Olive had a blast though she was skipping her fat morning nap.  She walked around bobbing her head like a li’l G, doing shoulder shrugs to the beat and walking right up to the other little cuties’ toys, instead of ackin’ like the shy, new gal.

Other moms even commented that she seemed so independent, and I was like, “Yes, only because I’m here.”  Sho’ nuff, when I left for adult discussion a few classrooms away, she cried like I had abandoned her Philomena style.  (Warning:  that movie got me laid out for weeks.)  I was called back even before I made it to the discussion.

On another note, I thought that by now, I wouldn’t care much about becoming “just” a mom once again after moving from NYC to here.  I need this “down” time of not juggling mom and work though definitely missing the paycheck for our growing expenses, 10% CA sales tax, and the pricier gas.

But when I see a son’s classmate’s mom in her scrubs in the morning or meet up with other lawyer moms who are currently practicing law, I do get that twinge again, that twinge I thought had long been put to bed:  Right now, I am “just” a mom.

When I signed up Olive and me for the class today, I was asked some routine sign-up database questions including, “Are you currently employed?”  Again, I am so much more comfortable as “just” a mom as a third-time mom but I did feel like explaining myself for a second:  Oh, we are just settling in and I’m with this little one.

I didn’t have to explain myself as the staff said, “Oh, I mean, you have that little one to take care of,” as if to help me out and justify it for me.  And then when she asked my highest level of education, and I said, “Juris Doctor,” she seemed surprised.  It just reminded me of how much our identities are wrapped up in our work or status, whether or not we enjoy that work.  So easy to tell someone “lawyer” when asked what do I do.

And further along that tangent, I remember a classmate’s mom in NYC telling me about another classmate’s family, how they were a “good family,” “both parents are anesthesiologists.”  Of course, I knew what she meant but that only tells me that they are highly educated and have high pressure, high paying, high status jobs, not that they are a good family.  Maybe I’m being a purist with words and labels but it did give me pause.

Anyways, I have to go drive to the boys’ school now.  So different that they don’t close schools for Rosh Hashanah here.

Maybe I will meet the other transplant from the East Coast, a dad I just met on Friday.  We were swapping move stories and feelin’ each other on $$$$ shipping costs and being new, even though I done boomeranged to my roots 13 years later.

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new class was a blast but got me laid out!

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meeting new humans and horse at a local play date

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met most of these people the night before!

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familiar face no matter which coast

 

 

 

 

 

 

New things

Just saw that it’s been exactly four months since my last post on 4.27.18.

Keeping with the 27s, one month since my family and I moved from NYC to LA on 7.27.18.

I left in 2005 for my then long-distance boyfriend, now husband and babies’ daddy.  I remember sitting around sharing desserts after a birthday dinner in Los Feliz, and my girlfriends expressing concern that I was moving out to NYC without a ring on my finger.

I was touched by their love for me but I explained that getting long distance engaged wouldn’t actually be any kind of guarantee.  What if I moved out there and he turned out to be a jerk?

I do remember saying, “I can always move back if things are awful.”

Sometimes, things were awful.  Not because of who Kevin was but because NYC is a tough place to live with small kids, harsh winters and no family.  Plus marriage is always tough even without the East Coast West Coast Biggie and Tupac tension.

Then I started to resign myself to thinking that maybe we’d have to keep staying because jobs weren’t as easy to come by as strangers and acquaintances seemed to suggest.

About the third child in, I just accepted that while sun, nature, childhood friends, family, oceans of parking spaces and quiet were life-giving to me, it just wasn’t part of God’s plan to open that door for me.  I’d just have to brave the subway and recalibrate my expectations to the suburbs of NYC, a common transition for many Queens families.

As we got ready to put an offer on a house on Long Island, all the while feeling like, “Something doesn’t feel right.  Shouldn’t we be more excited about buying a house?,” Kevin’s job offer started taking shape.  As you know, I am a very gut feeling / signs / intuition gal and when one realtor said, “Welcome to Long Island,” all my cells clenched to say, “Nope nope nope nope.”

Right before Kevin went to fly in for his interview, we visited a huge playground on LI.  Suped up.  Inviting.  (But still SO cold in the spring).  If anything, all that play space should have lured us into seeing what LI has to offer.  I asked him, “So?  Whaddya think?  You think we’re gonna live here?  Or can we dare say we might end up in L.A. after all these years?”

Kevin hates to jinx anything and has all these rituals during sports playoffs.  He didn’t want to spit it out but he was willing to say, “I don’t think we’re gonna end up here.  I know we might make an offer on that house and I can totally picture us living there but I just feel like we won’t be here.”

There was a 37 day period of limbo even *after* Kevin received and accepted the job offer.  We didn’t know if we should be online looking for housing in L.A., Queens or Long Island.  We gave quasi-notices at our jobs.  We prayed a lot.

And here we are.  Exploring our new neighborhood.  Reconnecting with old friends.  Trying to remember to take in our own bags at the market.  Getting used to “May I help you find anything?”  Referring to NYC  as “back home.”  Feeling myself calmer as I don’t soak in all the beep-beeps and honk-honks.

And I keep coming back to how this verse shouted out at me this year:

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

I perceive it.  I receive it.  And I am rejoicing in it wildly.  Thank You, Lord.

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New things:  Olive and I start off on our own as Kevin starts new job and boys resume week three at their new school.

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unpacked our handmade ornaments from Family Camp exactly two years before we moved out to LA; the date gave me chills, as did the fact that Olive was not even a sure thing back then and here we all are